San Diego Union Tribune

'My Mother, My Friend'

Author urges moms and daughters to build relationships

By Kelly O'Connor

May 1, 2002

DEL MAR – Mary Marcdante will never be a mother. She is not able to have children of her own, and with no plans to adopt, she will never experience giving advice to a daughter.

But representatives from "The Oprah Winfrey Show" have asked her to come on the program and talk about mother-daughter relationships. Marcdante will also be the guest speaker at San Diego's 50 Best Moms Luncheon May 11.

Marcdante is a sought-after motivational speaker who knows how important it is to build a good relationship with one's mother. Actually, she thinks everyone should build a friendship with their mom.

"Don't wait for the crisis. Do it now," Marcdante said.

Marcdante waited until her mother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. When she died five months later, in April 1991, Marcdante was still left with unanswered questions.

In her book, "My Mother, My Friend," Marcdante gives advice about how to approach one's mother and what to talk about.

Marcdante did her research when she traveled the country speaking to various organizations. She has spoken to more than 200,000 people around the world since 1980.

When Marcdante talked with women, she asked them what was the one question they wished they had asked their mother, or would like to ask her, but are too reticent to ask. She also interviewed 400 mothers and daughters about their relationships.

Marcdante said the four most important topics to discuss are health, money, aging and end-of-life issues. Topics everyone has questions about, mothers can, more often than not, provide the answers to, she said.

The book offers inspiration, Marcdante said. Peppered throughout the book are quotes from men, women and bumper stickers.

One that stands out in Marcdante's mind is from an audiotape of psychologist and author Harriet Lerner, which Marcdante included in her book's introduction: "If we don't really know our mother, we can't really know ourselves." Marcdante agrees wholeheartedly.

When Marcdante finally started asking her mother questions, she was disappointed she did not start earlier. The hardest one she had to ask was, "How do you really feel about dying?"

Her mother's answer was: "'I don't want to talk about it; I just want to live."

Those words answered a lot for Marcdante. Finally, what her mother had always said, "don't wait, do it now," made sense.

Marcdante said the book is not limited to people whose mother is still living. The book has questions in it that are designed to spark readers' memories. Oftentimes, people can remember enough about their mothers to find the answers they were looking for.

Marcdante and her mother became so close in the five months preceding her mother's death that they made a pact. If there is an afterlife, her mother was to find a way to come back and tell her.

In a vision, Marcdante heard her mother tell her to write the book.

"I thought, I'm either in major grief or I am totally freaking out," she said.

Two years later, Marcdante had a dream. It was her mother again, and she had the same message.

Marcdante had never written a book and never thought about doing so. Things went so smoothly, she is convinced that her mother fulfilled the pact.

So, does Marcdante believe in an afterlife?

"It's kind of hard not to when you have things like that happen," she said.

I'd love to speak to your group. Call me at (888) 600-3421

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